Aerial photograph showing Craiglas Limekilns

Craiglas Limekilns

Craiglas Limekilns between Llanrhystud and Llanon, one of the many historic limekilns of Ceredigion that are dotted along the Cardigan Bay coastline.

Following a visit to Llanrhystud beach, we walked South along the beach where Michael Freeman talked about the history of Craiglas Limekilns.

Watch the video above and discover the history of Craiglas Limekilns.

1. History

They’re square, most lime kilns are round most of these have got three eyes and they’re called eyes because at night they would glow like the devil’s eyes, I suppose, most of the other kilns in Ceredigion have only got two, one on each side. There’re 130 lime kilns between Aberystwyth and Milford Haven in 40 different sites, and they’re all on the coast, so it’s a big industry. If you want to know more Richard Lewis is here. He’s the world expert on them.

Michael Freeman talks to the Ceredigion Historical Society about Craiglas Limekilns
Michael Freeman talks to the Ceredigion Historical Society about Craiglas Limekilns

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2. Lime

I won’t go into detail about how the lime was built, but, Tim’s just been telling me something really interesting about two sorts of lime that from the South it’s good for the fields, that from North Aberffraw is good for mortar.

And we know that some of some lime was brought from Holyhead to this beach here in 1848 on the Eagle Eyed boat and it was owned by somebody in Llanon. So we got good evidence of lime coming from both North and South Wales to be burnt here. So that would come to the beach and if they were quays down on the beach, then they would have been unloaded and brought up by cart and this map of eighteen fifty shows six lime kilns so two have disappeared. And when you walk back you’ll see a big pile of stone which is vitrified, some of it, because of the heat, where two more were and I think there was a seventh which has been washed away by the sea which you can just see traces of in the clear. We haven’t got time to go down there.

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3. Limekilns

But behind this is a coal yard, a very nice stone built walled area with a very fine wrought iron gate to it. It’s quite difficult to see but if you want to go around the path to the back of this and get to it only one or two people can get to see it at one time. This was, this land is owned by what was the West Wales Natural Trust, but it’s called something else now, isn’t it. And they cleared all the vegetation and there’s a photograph, an aerial photograph showing it really clearly, their plan was to keep it clear and left lime loving plants grow here because there’s so much lime, so that the soil is neutral or even alkaline in this area. But obviously they haven’t had the resources to keep it as clear as I think they would have liked, So I’ll pass around and you can see the coal yard on that clearly.

Aerial photograph showing Craiglas Limekilns
Aerial photograph showing Craiglas Limekilns

So, on that map too, the 1851 you can see two roads going down to the beach, but they’ve been washed away now, and about 20 years ago I saw the traces of that road going up the cliff edge and it’s gone. We were saying earlier on this cliff is wearing away at the rate of four inches a year on average, a metre a decade. So, it’s not going to be too long before it’s up to here, whether they try and preserve these structures or not, I don’t know.

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4. Industry

But they are massive and enormous energy has gone into building them, and then vast quantities of stone brought up. It is said that I think between 12 and 14 boats bringing lime here, possibly in the season which is the winter time and then these would be burnt 24 hours a day, for months on end, and there are a really great place to bake a stolen chicken or for a tramp to sleep overnight, keeping you warm, and in fact in Haverford West, we know a tramp rolled into the kiln and was instantly burnt to death. So, I’ll let you go along, and just to get a feeling for the size of these, I say this is four of six or possibly seven, Richard won’t say something.

Richard Lewis discusses the Lime Kiln Industry
Richard Lewis discusses the Lime Kiln Industry

Can I just say one little thing, yes of course, we were talking about the ramps down, below there, there’s a very old iron crab winch, yeah, there’s another one up in the field across there and I’m sure that they were part of the system here, bringing up stuff, yeah, it’s been in the sea for at least twenty years probably more and i’ve watched it, it moves every so often, you would never lift it out of the place, but the force of the sea manages, you talk of tramps sleeping at the base, very often if the tramps did sleep at the base they died because the carbon monoxide gas which is a heavy gas would have suffocated them and it wouldn’t be there in the morning. And another little point, I spoke to a lady once who lived in Llannon here and her mother remembers seeing sailing ships at least a dozen queuing up here, ready to come in. So what date would that be, well that lady is no longer with us, but the daughter so the mother must have been going back, she would be about 80 now if she was alive, yes, yes. So it’s just quite a long time ago but her mother described it very vividly to her, certainly ships. There’s a major industry going on here in such, what appears to be an isolated place.

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5. Ownership

Who owned the Kilns, was there a, Mabws had them for a bit, Monachty had them, oh I see, the lands changed hands. But we know the names of some of the people who ran the kilns as well, the land is leased, yes, to erm the man that had the pub, John Morgan and then David Evans, that’s right. It’s well, that is reasonably well documented. What we don’t know is when it closed. It’s not something to be recorded normally, unless they stop paying rent.

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Photographs of the Ceredigion Historical Societies field trip to Craiglas Limekilns, Llanrhystud.

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